Research: Family-focused youth prevention programs are more effective

Sawyer County Recorddownload (32)

April 13, 2014

Programs aimed at reducing underage alcohol and drug use typically zero in on young people themselves. But positive parenting and strong relationships between parents and youth are more effective at steering teens away from risky behaviors, research shows.

“Many prevention programs focus on youth only, and most have small effects,” said Karen Bogenschneider, University of Wisconsin-Extension family policy specialist and Rothermel Bascom Professor of Human Ecology at UW-Madison. “Programs that change family dynamics proved nine times more effective than approaches that focus on individual youth.”

Bogenschneider said that professionals who educate or deliver services to families endorse the effectiveness of family-focused approaches. And public programs and policies supporting strong family relationships provide a good return on taxpayer investment. “It’s hard to overstate the important role that families play in raising young people who will be able to contribute to a strong society and a sound economy,” she said.

One effort that has shown positive results in surrounding counties is the “Strengthening Families Program 10 to 14,” said UW-Extension Family Living educator Lori Baltrusis. She noted that UW-Extension trains local family professionals to conduct the “Strengthening Families” program with Sawyer families.

“Youth who participated were less likely to use alcohol and other drugs, were less aggressive, had fewer behavior problems and were more able to resist peer pressure,” Baltrusis said. “Parents who took part were more affectionate with their children and set more appropriate limits.”

Cost benefits analysis shows that for every $1 invested in the program, nearly $10 is saved in future costs such as drug treatment, lost future earnings and time in the juvenile justice system. Baltrusis said that UW-Extension programs in every Wisconsin county are designed to strengthen families through educational programs that are tested and based on research.

Parents with a 10-14 year old in the family are encouraged to consider attending the next program together. To sign up for the next Strengthening Families Program to be held Tuesday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 29 to June 10, call Northwest Connection Family Resources at (715) 634-2299.

Growers Encouraged to Enter Soybean Yield Contest

Wisconsin Ag Connection1024px-Brack_soybean_(kuromame-tanbaguro)_of_japan

April 11, 2014

The Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board has announced details of its fifth annual Soybean Yield Contest. The program aims to encourage the development of new and innovative management practices and to show the importance of using sound cultural practices in Wisconsin soybean production.

To enter, growers must complete the contest entry form by September 1 and follow up with Harvest Report Forms in late November. Two winners from each of the four geographical divisions in the state will receive awards.

The contest’s top entries in each division will earn a $1,000 cash prize at next year’s Wisconsin Corn/Soy Expo, with second-place receiving $500. Winners will be selected for having the highest soybean yield based on bushels per acre at 13-percent moisture.

“The State Soybean Yield Contest is the perfect opportunity for Wisconsin farmers to test their techniques and boost yields to help us meet the growing world demand for soybeans,” says Dr. Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin-Extension Soybean Specialist.

The competition is being sponsored by the WSMB, Wisconsin Soybean Association, University of Wisconsin-Extension and UW College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

For entry information and additional details about the contest, call 608-262-7975 or visit

Sweet smell of spring a sign planting season is near

LaCrosse Tribune53474a2416237.preview-620

April 11, 2014

Winter has finally loosened its arctic stranglehold on the Coulee Region, and preparations for spring planting are well underway.

Farmers have already begun hauling and spreading manure, fertilizing fields that just a few weeks ago were blanketed in snow.

Soil temperatures were between 35 and 40 degrees Thursday — still too low to begin planting — but small grain and alfalfa seeding will begin within the next week.

“People are feeling overall optimistic,” said Steve Okonek, UW Extension agriculture agent for Trempealeau County.

If the weather cooperates, farmers will begin planting corn by the end of April and continue through May. Soybean planting will follow, with crops going in through the first part of June.

Some farmers are nervous about the impact the harsh winter had on their alfalfa — a perennial that typically survives three to four years before being rotated to corn. It’s still too early to tell how the crop fared, but a hard freeze within the next few weeks could be problematic, Okonek said.

The past two years were tough for farmers, with a crippling drought in 2012 and a soggy spring delaying planting in 2013. This year is off to a promising start, but farmers are hoping for consistency throughout the season, said Steve Huntzicker, UW Extension agriculture agent for La Crosse County.

Corn prices are about $5 per bushel, down from a high of $6 to $7 per bushel a few years ago, but exports are strong. Soybean prices are much more favorable at about $14.89 per bushel.

“That’s weighing on a lot of people’s minds,” Okonek said. “We may see more soybeans this year than corn.”

Hay prices are up, too, said Bill Halfman, UW Extension agriculture agent for Monroe County. He anticipates some farmers might be switching acres that have previously grown corn over to alfalfa, especially if they have livestock to feed.

“Farmers are evaluating … because of the potential profit differentials,” he said.

Nationally, corn acreage is estimated at 91.7 million acres, up about 4 percent from 2013. Soybean acreage is estimated at a record high of 81.5 million acres, up 6 percent from last year, based on projected planting statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Wisconsin farmers are projected to sow 4.1 million acres of corn and 1.75 acres of soybeans in 2014.

Growing Produce for Profit’ topic of April 15 event

The Rock River TimesGrowing-Produce-300x336

April 9, 2014

To assist vegetable and fruit growers in the area, University of Illinois Extension and University of Wisconsin-Extension are partnering for “Growing Produce for Profit” from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, April 15, at Midway Village Museum, 6769 Guildford Road, Rockford. This workshop will cover topics that include soil health, bramble production, integrated pest management (IPM) and determining market prices.

Grant McCarty, University of Illinois Extension educator, local foods and small farms, said: “These presentations will give growers additional information that they can actively use this season as they begin production. At the same time, the topic of farmers’ market prices continually comes up, and we’re pleased to have Dr. Erin Silva from University of Wisconsin joining us to explain how to determine your pricing,”

Participants will hear two main sessions (soil health and determining market prices) and then a choice of either Integrated Pest Management or bramble production. Cost for the event is $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

To register and for additional information, visit

UW-Rock County to host Earth Day festival

Janesville GazetteEarth_flag_PD

April 9, 2014

UW-Rock County will host an Earth Day festival Tuesday, April 22, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. with a showing of the film “Wall-E” at 6:30 p.m. in Williams Hall.

The family-friendly event will feature environmentally themed booths and exhibits from student clubs and local organizations, according to a written release.

Outdoor activities sponsored by student organizations are planned weather permitting, according to the release.

Participants are also encouraged to bring old running shoes for recycling. Free organic popcorn donated by Basics Cooperative Natural Foods will be available while supplies last, according to the release.

The events will be held on campus at 2909 Kellogg Ave., Janesville.

Scheduled to participate in the festival are Hoo’s Woods, Welty Environmental Center, Fine Feathered Friends Sanctuary, Full Spectrum Solar, UW Extension Horticulture Education, Rock County Health Department, Children are the Hope, Virent, Rock County Trail Coalition and Green Rock Audubon Society, according to the release.

The festival and movie are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Krissy Weisgerber at 608-758-6565 ext. 733 or

- See more at:

Grape pruning workshop set for Saturday in Spooner

Sawyer County Record

April 9, 2014

UW-Extension and the Spooner Agriculture Research Station will host a grape pruning workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at the Spooner Agriculture Research Station headquarters at W6646 Highway 70, just east of Spooner.

The workshop will include a short classroom discussion on basic grape management, grape training systems and pruning, followed by an outdoor pruning demonstration. The pruning workshop and demonstration will be led by Kevin Schoessow, UW-Extension agriculture development agent for Burnett, Washburn and Sawyer counties.

The indoor session will be held in the meeting room. The pruning demonstration will be held outside (come dressed appropriately) in the Teaching and Display Garden at N52645 Orchard Lane, which is across the street from the dairy sheep research facilities. Orchard Lane is one-half mile east of Spooner near the Yellow River bridge and wayside.

There is no cost and the event is open to the public. Pre-registration is requested by contacting Lorraine Toman at the Spooner Area Ag Agents office at 1-800-528-1914 or (715) 635-3506. More information can also be found on the Spooner Agriculture Research Station’s website at

Former ag agent touts farm business education

Portage Daily Register5343681b55c3d.preview-620

April 7, 2014

Randy Zogbaum was preaching to the choir.

It was a familiar choir — the Columbia County Board’s agriculture and land and water conservation committee. Zogbaum had been the agriculture agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension Columbia County before leaving in late November 2008 to be education director for agriculture, natural resources and renewable energy with the Wisconsin Technical College System.

His message fell on receptive ears: Madison Area Technical College is here to help farmers manage the dollars and cents of agriculture.

“Whether you’re a fresh-market vegetable producer or have a 1,000-cow dairy herd, farming is still a business,” Zogbaum said.

Now an MATC agriculture instructor, Zogbaum came to Columbia County on Monday at the invitation of County Board Chairman Andy Ross to talk about a series of farm business classes — each lasting six weeks and offering 24 hours of instruction — that Zogbaum is helping to put together.

Zogbaum is based in Reedsburg, but he said many of MATC’s satellite campuses, including the one in Portage, are expected to offer the classes.

Some of the topics are:

• Understanding the farm business, mainly for people who are new to farming or who are contemplating launching a career in farming.

• Developing a farm business plan.

• Farm business analysis and decision making.

• Farm enterprise analysis and marketing.

• Long-term farm budgeting and management.

Kurt Calkins, Columbia County’s director of land and water conservation, said he thinks classes like these should include education on farmers’ compliance with state pollution control standards.

They will, Zogbaum said — the classes will show farmers the costs of non-compliance, the losses in profit that can result from using more fertilizer than is needed and the sources of financial assistance for farmers who want to (or have to) undertake a costly pollution-abatement project.

Committee member Mike Weyh, who is a farmer, said he was curious about whether the classes would address the sometimes-daunting process of navigating farm markets and determining when and where to sell farm commodities.

That will be addressed in the more advanced courses, Zogbaum said.

He said the classes can be taken sequentially, or experienced farmers can take only the more advanced classes.

Zogbaum said he would not teach all the classes; in fact, MATC is looking for adjunct instructors for the classes, most of which are expected to start this fall.

But some of the people sitting around the table for the committee’s meeting, he said, could play a role in the instruction. For example, Calkins could share information about cost-sharing programs offered by the state through county land and water conservation departments. And representatives from federal offices like the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency could show farmers how to tap into resources offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The cost would be about $240 per course.

Zogbaum said MATC will put out a brochure sometime in the late summer to announce the classes’ schedule and locations where they will be offered.

Garden calendar | For the week of April 6

Wisconsin State Journal533cddb95beb8.preview-300

April 6, 2014

Winter burn: I have been getting a number of questions lately about browned-out evergreens around town. This is winter burn, caused by dehydration of affected foliage. We are seeing a lot of it, especially on yews. Affected needles will not recover, unfortunately. You may get regrowth from buds farther back on the stem, but with yews it is typically slow, and the farther back on the stem you go, the fewer dormant buds there are. Many yews will only have buds that may re-grow in the first 4 inches from the tip back into the shrub. Plants that have been aggressively pruned into gumball shapes with only a thin shell of foliage will have an especially hard time recovering.

If you want to wait and see if new growth will emerge, check in mid- to late April to see if there are new green buds appearing and gauge then whether there are enough that you want to keep or remove the shrub. It might take a couple seasons for the shrub to recover, if it can recover. In the meantime, you can remove dead tips on the outer tips of the branches. Yews produce new growth in late May-early June and again in July.

Winter burn is typically caused by two primary phenomena and another less common reason. The most common cause is dehydration due to the air temperatures rising above freezing, especially on the southern or western side of the house where the air is warmer due to reflected heat and light. The evergreen foliage comes out of dormancy and starts to respire and give off water vapor, but can’t replace that lost moisture because the ground is frozen and the roots can’t pull up any water. Typically this happens when we have a “winter thaw” event where the air temperature gets into the 40s such as it did a few weeks ago, and then dips below freezing again. This is about when symptoms started to appear in Madison. Conifers don’t go into dormancy as deeply as deciduous plants, so there is always some danger of this occurring, and some species are more prone to damage than others. Foliage that is more protected in the interior of the plant and/or in the shade is typically not affected as severely.

The second cause is colder than normal winter temperatures or wind dehydrating the foliage. More marginally hardy species like Chamaecyparis, Boxwood or Rhododendron have been predictably affected, but also some spruce and junipers that are less commonly affected.

The third reason there can be winter burn is due to salt spray or salt accumulation in the soil due to de-icing salts used in streets, sidewalks and driveways. The following publication at the UWEX learningstore addresses some actions you can take, such as using more abrasive materials like sand and less salt, and using other chloride-containing materials rather than rock salt that has a lot of sodium.

To help prevent winter burn in the future, you can put in tall stakes and wrap burlap around them to “tent” evergreens that receive a lot of winter sun or wind. Also, if autumn is dry, evergreens should be watered at least one inch per week up through the middle of November so they go into winter well-hydrated. UW-Extension does not recommend anti-transpirant spray products due to inconsistent protection results and residuals causing issues during the growing season. Here is a link to an article that you may find helpful:

Read more:

New state law revises farm equipment limitations on roadways

Green Bay Press Gazette images (31)

April 3, 2014

Implements of husbandry (IOH) or agricultural equipment are essential to the production of agricultural materials, but deteriorating road infrastructure and safety concerns have come to the forefront for Wisconsin lawmakers. The increasing size and weight of equipment are seen as posing a threat to preserving roads for as long as possible as well as creates potentially dangerous situations for motorists maneuvering with and around equipment while on the road.

The Wisconsin Senate on April 1 approved Senate Bill 509, which had passed in the Assembly with an 82-11 vote on March 20. The implements of husbandry legislation provides new limits on agricultural equipment on public roads. Considering the high amount of agricultural-based business in the county, a Kewaunee County Committee for Heavy Traffic (KCCHT) has been working on plans for more than two years.

KCCHT is comprised of farmers, independent haulers and public entities. University of Wisconsin-Extension Kewaunee County Agricultural Agent Aerica Bjurstrom and Sheriff Matt Joski are also part of the committee to help bring local education about the bill, which will become law once signed by Gov. Scott Walker.

Cheryl Skjolass, agricultural safety specialist at UW-Extension in Madison, has also been participating in providing information to local entities about how it will affect Kewaunee County.

“Agricultural systems have changed, and to meet that change in the industry, our equipment has increased in size and weight,” Skjolass said. “Town roads in particular weren’t designed for the weight of what the equipment has become. Bridges and culverts that are part of road structures also host a question of what stresses can they take from those increased weights.”

On March 21, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau issued a new release outlining the weight limits in SB509: “It increases weight limits by 15 percent for IOH. It increases axle weight limits from 20,000 to 23,000, and total gross vehicle weight from 80,000 to 92,000 pounds.”

Skjolass stated that when the state committee began studying the problems, it had to revisit the definition of “implement of husbandry,” which had not been changed in more than 40 years. The definition placed in the bill opens the definition to more than tractors, to include combines, tillage, spraying and self-propelled equipment designed for field work.

On March 20, the KCCHT met with local town representatives and the public to talk about what this area can begin learning and practicing about the bill and to start thinking about goals to preserve the road system.

Bjurstrom said points made at the meeting involved motorist safety, such as improving equipment visibility and implementing safer manure-transfer stations. They also talked about how town leadership can be taken with bill implementation to monitor equipment weights on roadways.

“The bill helps our county efforts, because we are actively discussing the size of equipment and this specifically identified what weight, length and axle weight should be,” Bjurstrom said. “Our roads here are fragile, and farmers don’t want to tear them up, because they use them, too.”

An interesting feature of the bill is that town leaders can opt for a no-fee permit process to work with the farmer to establish which roads will be used during the season. The point is for cooperation between government and producer to talk through what the best-case scenario may be for road preservation, safety and land access. A concern to producers may be having to take longer routes or purchasing smaller equipment to fall within the weight limits, creating an economic disadvantage.

“Each road brings with it unique concerns. This is not only related to the roadbed itself but any bridges or culverts which may be in a given route,” Joski said. “This is where the no-fee permit and the communication it creates between the haulers and the towns is vital.”

Skjolass said agricultural engineers and manufacturers are also in on these state discussions and are also concerned about changing legislation. Agricultural equipment is not as standardized as trucking equipment, due to a lack of size and weight regulations.

As for road safety, more lighting and other strategies will have to be considered so other motorists are aware of IOH on the road. Bjurstrom said that for people coming into the area who may not be as familiar with agricultural equipment on the roads, there need to be ways to make the equipment noticeable.

“On the county level, we are working on creating signage protocols to let motorists know if something is coming up, such as flashing beacons or potentially a flag person,” Bjurstrom said. “This may cost money, but keeping all involved safer is worth it.”

Skjolass stated that with SB509, a bill passed in 2012 allowing motorists to pass vehicles going half the speed than the posted limit in a no-passing zone will no longer be in effect when traveling around agricultural equipment.

Joski said he is optimistic about how the bill will work within Kewaunee County, and he wants to see towns and operators to start practicing the new safety processes before the new law goes into effect next January.

“I believe that the legislation creates a mechanism by which the various entities must communicate and develop plans and alternatives, which is something that has been lacking over the past many years,” Joski said. “We want to be more proactive and simulate and practice now so we aren’t hit with all the changes next year.”


Wisconsin Crop Budget Program Now Available Online

Wisconsin Ag Connection

April 3, 2014

Wisconsin producers can now access information to help them make cropping decisions simply by going to their computers or mobile devices. The 2014 field crop, vegetable and pasture budgets have been placed online by the University of Wisconsin-Extension Farm Team. The program can be accessed by going to:

These budgets calculate the costs associated with using tractors, implements and durables. The costs calculated are energy use, labor, repairs, ownership interest cost and depreciation charge. Coordinators say that with the increasing prices for fertilizer, fuel, seed, and pesticides, these budgets are best used as a ‘side-by-side’ comparison tool to analyze financial costs and benefits for producing different crops.

The field crop budgets include barley, corn after corn, corn after soybeans, corn silage after alfalfa, corn silage after corn, oats, rye, soybeans, spring and winter wheat, seeding alfalfa and established alfalfa for hay and haylage. There are two established pasture and two pasture establishment budgets.

The 15 commercial vegetable budgets include: cabbage (non-irrigated), carrot (non-irrigated), pickling cucumber (irrigated), slicing cucumber (irrigated), peas (irrigated and non-irrigated), potato (non-irrigated and irrigated), snapbean (non-irrigated and irrigated), and sweetcorn (non-irrigated and irrigated).

The 23 fresh market vegetable budgets are: asparagus, beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, honeydew melon, leek, muskmelon, onion, peas, Bell pepper, pumpkin, salad greens, snapbean, summer squash, sweet corn, tomato, watermelon and winter squash.

For more information about these crop budgets, call 715-355-4561.


The County Line

April 2, 2014

The Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service updates the Farm Custom Rate Guide about one every three years.

The newest version, from a survey in late 2013, was released last week. The Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service surveys custom operators, along with farmers who perform the work, farmers who hire custom work, and machinery dealers who rent out equipment, according to the Monroe County University of Wisconsin-Extension Office.

Most custom rates printed in the publication include the cost of hiring the machine with fuel and operator, but exclude the cost of any materials (for example, the cost of seed, fertilizer, etc.). There is no attempt to distinguish between rates charged by individuals who perform custom operations as a primary income source and farmers who occasionally do custom work as a sideline, according to the UW-Extension.

Within the guide, there is both an average rate and numerical range given for different custom farm operations. In many cases, rates are also given by region of the state. There are many factors that may influence what rate is charged in a given situation, according to the UW-Extension. These may include availability of equipment, soil conditions, topography, field size, and the type, age, size, and condition of the equipment used.

In some cases, rates are reported in units of dollars per acre and dollars per hour.

A copy of the Custom Rate Guide can be downloaded at the UW-Extension Monroe County website at, or contact the Monroe County Office at 269-8722 to get a copy.

Kewaunee County wins bid for 2017 Farm Technology Days

Door County Advocatebilde (6)

April 2, 2014

Kewaunee County was named host county for the 2017 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days during a meeting in Madison on April 2. It’s the first time the county has been chosen to host the annual event that can draw up to 100,000 visitors.

University of Wisconsin-Extension Agricultural Agent Aerica Bjurstrom traveled to Madison to submit the application materials to the board of directors of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Inc. and came home with the good news.

Farm Technology Days, the largest agricultural show in Wisconsin, travels to a different county and a different host farm each year for the three-day outdoor event. The event showcases improvements in agricultural technology, giving visitors the opportunity to interact with more than 600 commercial and educational exhibitors.

Bjurstrom said she is excited to get the planning started, which will involve UW-Extension in Kewaunee County, the county’s Farm Technology Days committee and nearly 1,000 volunteers, Kewaunee county.

“I feel it can be something good for the community to rally around after the nuclear plant shutdown,” Bjurstrom said. “We can promote all of Kewaunee County’s agricultural aspects, including wineries, greenhouses, fishing and of course the dairies.”

The Kewaunee County Board passed a resolution in support of the county application to host the event back on Sept. 17, 2013.

“We really want to showcase Kewaunee County’s agricultural history, where we are going in the future, our local farm start-ups,” Bjurstrom said. “We also want to show visitors the things they can see when they come back to Kewaunee County.”

The hope with hosting is to stimulate the economy in the area and to bring the community together during this event. Bjurstrom stated that community building, volunteerism, leadership and education are all major aspects of this show.

Farm Technology Days will be hosted in Portage County this summer, Dane County in 2015 and Walworth in 2016.

With Runoff Likely, Farmers Told To Wait On Applying Manure To Fields

Wisconsin Public Radiorunoff-risk-apr-01

April 1, 2014

Farmers anxiously awaiting planting season are being told to hold off on applying manure to a good portion of their fields. The risk of nutrient runoff is high across most of the state.

Typically around this time of year, farmers are spreading manure on their fields to give the soil nutrients it needs. But this winter and spring haven’t been typical, and many farmers have had to wait to fertilize most of their land.

Mark Jenks is a nutrient management planner with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

“We’re still looking at frozen ground conditions over most of the state, which limits the ability of the manure to get incorporated into the soil,” Jenks said. “In a lot of places we’re still dealing with snow melt as well.”

That’s why the state’s Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast shows most of the state is at a high risk of runoff. Jenks says farmers need to be cautious when spreading manure so it does not end up in rivers, streams, and lakes.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, there have been a few isolated runoff cases this year that the agency is still investigating.

University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Crawford County Agriculture Agent Vance Haugen says farmers are antsy to get the manure out of storage and onto the fields.

“It’s been difficult for those folks that do have storage, because storage is getting filled up,” Haugen said. “Plus, we had a lot of snow and of course snow and other things can get into your storage and it can reduce the amount of space that you have.”

Haugen says over the years, farmers have been thinking more about when and where they apply manure in order to consciously prevent runoff problems.

Five presentations on the agenda for Management Update for Ag Professionals


April 1, 2014

Presentations on five topics are on the agenda for the University of Wisconsin Extension Service’s farm management update for agricultural professionals that is scheduled on Friday, May 2 at Liberty Hall here.

The program will start at 9:45 a.m. with Robin Schmahl of AgDairy LLC at rural Elkhart Lake reviewing the current milk and grain markets. Then farm tax law specialist Phil Harris of the Extension Service will give updates on estate taxes, long-term insurance, and farm asset depreciation.

To complete the morning session, Extension Service livestock facilities specialist David Kammel will show improvements in those buildings and describe how they have affected production, comfort, and labor/management efficiency.

Following the noon lunch, Extension Service agricultural economist Paul Mitchell will outline highlights of the 2014 Farm Bill and point out how it will affect farmers. The program will conclude with Extension Service dairy scientist Amy Stanton describing proper livestock stewardship and cattle handling protocols.

With a registration deadline of April 25, checks payable to UW-Extension Farm Business should be sent to P.O. Box 2003, West Bend, WI 53095-2003. The fee is $35 per person.

Farmers working to improve watersheds

The Country Todayimages (28)

March 31, 2014

Farmers are taking the lead to promote conservation in their watersheds through a new pilot project in northwestern Wisconsin.

“We needed a new way of working with farmers,” said Julia Olmstead, UW-Extension Watershed Project Coordinator at UW-River Falls. “We weren’t getting the long-term changes in cropping systems and other practices.”

Olmstead, along with two participating farmers, spoke March 13 at the third annual Red Cedar Watershed Conference in Menomonie.

The Farmer-Led Watershed Council Project includes four watersheds, including:

• The Big/Little Beaver Sub-Watershed in Dunn County, which drains into the Red Cedar River.

• The Rocky Branch Watershed in Pierce County, which drains into the Kinnickinnic River, then into the St. Croix River.

• The Horse Creek Watershed in Polk County, which drains into the Apple River, then into the St. Croix.

• The Dry Run Creek Watershed in St. Croix county, which drains into the Willow River, then into the St. Croix.

Project partners along with farmers and UW-Extension include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the McKnight Foundation, Wisconsin Farmers Union and land conservation departments in the four counties.

Olmstead, who was hired in 2013 as coordinator, said the project is modeled after a similar, successful farmer-led effort to promote conservation in northeastern Iowa.

Five-year project goals include reaching about 100 percent farmer participation, she said. They also hope to see significant reduction in phosphorus and widespread use of continuous living cover, such as cover crops.

They also would like to see this concept spread to other counties and watersheds in Wisconsin in the near future.

More short-term goals include obtaining as many P index values as possible, getting at least half of all farmers in each watershed to participate and helping farmers write conservation plans, Olmstead said.

Watersheds in the project have a big problem with Total Maximum Daily Load, she said, and several waterways have been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as impaired.

The state has mandated that the issue be addressed, she said, but “it’s not an easy thing because, for several years, we have had really high corn prices.”

Many farmers in the area have been removing land from the Conservation Reserve Program so they can plant more corn, she said.

The Farmer-Led Watershed Council Project is designed to provide an incentive for farmers to try new conservation efforts.

The participating watersheds average 8,000 to 20,000 acres, Olmstead said. While they are diverse, they also have some similarities.

Leadership for the project has emerged “organically,” she said. All the farmer councils are interested in monitoring both agricultural and non-agricultural contributions to water-quality issues. Two edge-of-field monitors already are in place, and three more are in the works. Soil sampling is underway, with cost-sharing provided.

The project promotes a lot of “farmer-to-farmer learning,” which is what many farmers prefer over being directed by agencies, Olmstead said.

Ben MrDutt, a fourth-generation farmer from Dunn County, said the program aims to help farmers improve their bottom lines while caring for the land.

MrDutt farms about 400 acres and has a cow/calf operation, grazing about 50 pairs on 50 acres.

“I need to see that I can make a profit on that land and improvements, as well,” he said.

The incentive program will be rolled out this spring, starting with cost-sharing for soil sampling along with payments for farmers to host a “no-strings-attached walk-through” for other farmers with a county UW-Extension agent, he said.

“The reason for the incentive on that is to reward them for their time and open eyes and get the conversation rolling,” said MrDutt, who’s involved in the Big/Little Beaver Sub-Watershed.

The walk-through tours will help educate farmers within the watershed and get them more involved in the project, he said.

“This year, we’re just going for involvement,” MrDutt said.

Brad Johnson, a cash-grain producer from Star Prairie, is among those leading efforts to improve the Horse Creek Watershed.

“It’s a great opportunity to interact with some of our neighbors who are like-minded,” said Johnson, who grows about 525 acres of no-till corn and soybeans and has had a lifelong interest in soil conservation.

Johnson said he plans to plant Kernza — a type of intermediate wheatgrass — as a cover crop this year.

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